The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

Finding the Goldilocks fit for your SoTL manuscript: It’s a question of content, voice, and application!


Written by Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL and Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Illinois State University (contact email:

As is the case with disciplinary research, SoTL research is carried out carefully and systematically. Data is analyzed, results are presented, and a compelling case is made for the implications of the outcomes of SoTL research process. For those of us for whom a peer-reviewed journal article is the “currency” of academic productivity, we think about where we might eventually send our work for review and (hopefully!) publication throughout our project’s life. We search lists of SoTL publication outlets seeking the Goldilocks “fit” for our research, carefully reviewing the aims, scopes, and missions of SoTL journals as part of this process. As these efforts unfold, there is a foundational question that must be asked as part of the search for a journal “home” for your SoTL work: Does my SoTL best fit in a disciplinary journal or a cross-disciplinary journal?

To make sure we are all on the same page semantically, I’d define a disciplinary SoTL journal as one that focuses primarily on one discipline. Teaching and Learning in Communication Sciences and Disorders is one that is a great example of this, with its focus on SoTL for the connected disciplines of speech-language pathology and audiology. Teaching and Learning Inquiry would be an ideal example of a cross-disciplinary SoTL journal, as manuscripts selected for publication potentially apply to a variety of disciplines across the academic spectrum.

The question of disciplinary versus cross-disciplinary fit has to do (mainly) with the potential reach for your work. For instance, if you conduct a rigorous SoTL project to understand how art history students’ learning is impacted through study abroad experiences in Italian museums, it’s possible that your findings might have primary interest and impact within the discipline of art history. As such, a journal like Art History Pedagogy & Practice would be a wonderful outlet for your work. A study on intrapersonal learning as a result of students’ involvement with an array of campus student organizations might have a broader disciplinary appeal, with publication in the cross-disciplinary Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning one potential outcome.

That said, it’s often how a manuscript is written that truly influences its fit for publication. With this in mind, three primary considerations become evident:

  • The content of your manuscript is extremely important. Is the topic being explored centered on questions from a single discipline? Or, might the content of your paper be of interest to people representing a variety of disciplines and contexts?
  • Your writing voice is also critical. When you constructed your manuscript, did you use accessible terminology or did you employ disciplinary jargon to best make your points?
  • How have you described the potential applications of your work? Did you tie your findings to uses and impacts in one discipline or did you make an effort to extend your research outcomes to a variety of fields and contexts?

The decision tree below operationalizes the notions of content, voice, and application through the lens that the more linguistically accessible and contextually inclusive your manuscript seeks to be, the more likely it is to find a fit in a cross-disciplinary SoTL journal.

SoTL decision tree

I have one last thought for your consideration. Some SoTL is simply so focused on one discipline that its contributions to the pedagogical content knowledge of that discipline must be honored with publication in a disciplinary journal. Similarly, some SoTL cannot be tied to only one discipline, or perhaps it’s so applicable to other disciplines that publishing in a cross-disciplinary outlet is its best fit. Thus, SoTL is not “better” or “worse” if its published in a disciplinary rather than a cross-disciplinary journal — or vice versa. Rather, it’s knowing where your SoTL belongs that helps it to have value to your audience. 


5 thoughts on “Finding the Goldilocks fit for your SoTL manuscript: It’s a question of content, voice, and application!

  1. Pingback: SoTL, ER, and DBER: Thoughts Inspired by a Twitter Conversation | The SoTL Advocate

  2. Hi Jennifer
    I am contacting you on behalf of The Open University’s Licensing & Acquisitions Department, We offer distance rather than traditional face to face/lecture style learning.
    We are interested in using the SoTL decision tree above within an online course currently in production entitled ‘Technology Enhanced Learning Foundations & Futures’.
    Please could you advise if you could grant permission and of any costs and/or license stipulations this may incur.
    Thank you for your assistance.
    Vanessa Sheward
    Content Licensing and IP Assistant


    • Hi, Vanessa.

      I’m fine with granting permission for you to use the decision tree you requested for the Open University. My only requirements are that this work not be sold and that it is properly attributed to me as the creator of this material. So long as those conditions can be met, then I have no further costs or license stipulations. If you are planning to sell this work, then I would need to chat further with you.

      Thanks so much.
      Jen Friberg


      • Hi Jen
        Thank you for your prompt response, I must apologise for my delayed response.
        Just to clarify how The Open Univerity works. Whilst the OU do charge for their qualifications we are a non – profit institution and a registered charity.
        Please confirm that yo are still happy for us to go ahead and use the material. Please could you also ste the credit you would like attributed if you have a preference.
        Thank yo again for your response and I look forward to hearing from you.
        Best Wishes
        Vanessa Sheward
        Content Licensing and IP Assistant


  3. Feel free to use the material. You can attribute it to Jennifer Friberg, Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. Thanks!


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